Wait a minute, are you flushing that wipe? And where are you throwing those gloves and masks? - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 14, 2020 1:58 pm

Wait a minute, are you flushing that wipe? And where are you throwing those gloves and masks?

The Philadelphia Water Department says COVID-19 detritus is mucking up the sewer systems.

(Image by artpolka for Pixabay)

Dear Philly — stop flushing your wipes. They end up in the sewer system, where they glom onto other icky and grotesque substances and become an infrastructure nightmare.

The Philadelphia Water Department is pleading with the city’s residents to stop flushing even those wipes marketed as flushable, citing concerns over the Department’s three water pollution control plants and 19 pumping stations.

Seems those otherwise nondescript wipes draw fat and grease to them, snowballing into “fatbergs” which, because of their size, can create blockages that “require major emergency sewer repairs and [that] close streets for extended periods.”

“We understand people want to be safe and are using more wipes these days but flushing any wipe or any material other than toilet paper is just irresponsible,” said Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman in an emailed statement. “These materials can create serious problems the moment you flush them. They clog pipes at homes, in the street, and at our facilities.”

Also, while we’ve got your attention, stop throwing your gloves and masks on the ground. The rain washes them into the same beleaguered system.

We know this is serious, but it’s also a bit entertaining in its own gross way.

In addition to learning about the existence of fatbergs (which can end up weighing tons), the Water Department’s statement informs us that 13 of its sanitary pump stations have been impacted by wipes; three combined sewer stations have been impacted by flushed wipes and discarded gloves, masks and other litter; and three stormwater stations have been impacted by litter like gloves and masks.

“We are all making many changes to deal with this health crisis, but we need to work together to avoid more problems with the infrastructure we depend on,” Hayman said. “Philadelphians have been expressing tremendous gratitude for the services we provide. But we need them to work with us. We can get through this together, and not flushing wipes or littering are really simple ways to help your city and the environment.”

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